Nurses’ Bill of Rights?
Much is made of the Patients’ Bill of Rights displayed at hospitals and nursing homes, but I wonder if similar rights exist for nurses (or health care workers in general). Recently I experienced my second day at work during which I was genuinely afraid that I was going to get hurt, and this time I WAS hurt. I ache all over from being hit and clawed all day long and from having to wrestle with a patient far too big for me to have a reasonable chance of controlling safely (for either one of us).
I brought this up multiple times throughout the day, and no one paid any evident attention either to the fact that I was in physical danger and was in fact being roughhoused or to the fact that if the patient decided to take off and happened to fall there was very little I could do about it. After 8 hours a male aide came from another floor to take my place, but I’m not sure whether this was because my desperate pleas were heeded or because they needed me on the floor. Anyway. This combined with the previous experience I had with the crazy family member (who I thought was going to hit me but didn’t) has given me a definite dread and actual fear of going to work. In what other profession would I be expected to be repeatedly hit? I am often hit or kicked as a one-off deal, and I don’t mind much because the patient usually doesn’t mean to do it and there is no way it can really be predicted or prevented. But in this case EVERYONE knew this patient was going to be violent.
So what about my rights? I hear a lot about patient rights and patient safety, and those items are indeed near the top of my priority list at work. However, my own safety is right up there as well, and that philosophy does not appear to be shared by my employers. It started me thinking. DO nurses have the right to a safe workplace? I don’t think I have ever heard this proclaimed. Obviously they should, but I’m wondering how common this kind of situation is.
I’m pretty much thinking that no job is worth being hit while no one does anything, so the next time I’m assigned to sit with a patient known to be violent I am going to refuse the assignment unless security is also in the room. I have too much respect for myself to allow that to happen again, and if I am fired for this caution then I guess this institution just isn’t a good fit. Am I insane to be bothered by this? Other aides were appalled and several said, “I wouldn’t have sat in there,” but is that true? I’ve never OBSERVED anyone refusing to do things like that. And the night nurse yelled at me before I even went in the room because her aide had said it was an impossible situation (“It’s your JOB,” she said). That didn’t really start my day off very well.
It was a bad day for everyone. Several of us were about to just walk out because of all the impossible situations that kept occurring. If it weren’t for my previous experience, I would write it off as a bizarre exception, but apparently this hospital has a habit of discounting its employees’ need for protection from violence. I’m not in to that. I want to help people and be a good nurse, and I am willing to accept the reasonable risk that one accepts to work in a hospital; however, I did not sign up to be a punching bag.